Aruba

In the language of the original inhabitants "Aruba" means "Shell island". The Spanish discovered Aruba in 1499. The island is located 30 kilometers off the Venezuelan coast and has been under Dutch ruling since 1636. The sun always shines and the air and water temperatures are pleasantly warm. It lures everyone with its clear turquoise blue waters and invites you to enjoy numerous sporting activities, breathtaking landscapes and the colonial ambience it has to offer.

Although large-scale tourism dominates the island (read: luxury resorts from here to sunset), there are still undeveloped areas on the exposed northern coast, and much of the interior is inhabited by nothing more substantial than goats and contorted divi-divi trees. In this region, the triple whammy of a dry climate, salt-loaded seaspray and relentless trade winds has created a wonderfully surreal landscape with more than a passing resemblance to the images Pathfinder sent back to Earth from Mars.

Aruba’s bright and breezy pastel-colored capital is on the island’s southern leeward coast, just southeast of the main resort area. It has a distinctly Dutch flavor, thanks largely to the modern vogue for fake colonial architecture. Most tourists visit to scour its boutiques and duty-free shops, but it has three small museums worth a peek if you’re interested in the island’s history.

The small Archaeological Museum has worthy exhibits on Aruba’s Arawak inhabitants. The Museo Arubano, located in the restored 18th-century Fort Zoutman, does a passable job explaining Aruba’s pre-European and colonial eras. And, if you want to see what jingled in the pockets of the oldendays folk, the Numismatic Museum has a vast collection of coinage from over 400 countries, some of which was salvaged from shipwrecks in the region.

Take an exquisite slice of nature, add a bunch of concrete monoliths, a forest of palm thatched beach umbrellas and a flotilla of watersport toys, and you’ll get some idea of the adventure playground that the resort area stretching from Eagle to Palm Beach has become. There’s no denying that the sand is as soft and fine and golden as you could wish, or that the water looks like it belongs in a Bacardi ad, but there’s also no ignoring that this entire stretch of coast is single-mindedly devoted to the business of providing a well-oiled Caribbean beach experience for as many people as possible.

Aruba’s natural bridge has been formed over millennia by surf eating away at a portion of the rocky northern shore. At 100ft (30m) long and 23ft (7m) tall, it’s no major miracle, but it’s a pretty decent break from the beach and a good spot to snap photos of your gang when none of you has to be in swimming costume. You can also slurp on very fine fruit shakes at the ‘thirst aid’ station on the cliff top. Andicuri Beach, a short stroll over the bridge, is a decent boogie-boarding location for competent swimmers.

Aruba doesn’t have a lot of land to play with, so it’s heartening that almost 20 percent of the island has been set aside as the Arikok National Park. It encompasses a significant chunk of the interior and a long stretch of the northern windward coast. The park contains traces of nearly all the significant forces that have impacted on Aruba’s history, including Arawak petroglyphs in the Fontein Cave, the remains of Dutch peasant settlements at Masiduri, plantation houses in the Prins Valley and the ruins of an old gold mining operation at Miralamar.

Windsurfers just love the gusty Passat winds and divers treasure the mysterious world under her calm sea.. And Aruba itself has a lot to offer: from the unusual arid and rugged landscape, the various sports and leisure activities, to the colourful and beautiful capital, Oranjestad.

Palm Beach, 10 km long and certainly one of the most famous beaches on Aruba, is near the city of Noord. On this wide palm-covered beach you can relax and enjoy the sun or join in a variety of water-sports and leisure activities. South of Palm Beach are two quieter and smaller beaches - Eagle Beach and Manchebo Beach - ideal spots for romantic sunsets!!

At Manchebo Beach, at Surfer?s Point or at Fisherman?s Hut, both professionals and amateurs find the best wind and waves. Beginners especially appreciate the calmer tides at Hadicurari Beach, which is located in the Northwest. Those who have tried windsurfing for the first time can work on their technique at the various windsurfing schools. You can also hire all the equipment needed at the numerous surf shops on Aruba.

The Passat Winds can also be enjoyed by a trip on a catamaran, trimaran or by sunfish and minifish sailing. And under water there is a world just waiting to be discovered. Snorkeling is a great way to discover the home of exotic fish and beautiful coloured coral reefs.